Hotels urged to get in the loop

Janet Coles
Janet Coles

Eastbourne’s hotels are being urged to fall in line with businesses in the rest of the town by having hearing loops installed.

Last month, Jerome Farrow, chairman of the Eastbourne Hospitality Association, told the Herald that many hotels did not have loops installed because there was no demand for them from visitors.

His comments came in the wake of disappointment expressed by Ian Westgate, chairman of the Eastbourne Access Group which represents disabled organisations in the town, who admitted he was frustrated by the lack of action despite holding talks with individual hotels and meeting the EHA.

Eastbourne is due to host an international hearing loop conference next October, with many of the delegates staying in hotels which are not properly equipped with working loops.

Now Cllr Janet Coles, Eastbourne Borough Council’s disability champion, has stepped into the fray. She pointed out that while the council and businesses in Eastbourne were cleaning up their acts, now was the time for hotels to follow suit.

She said, “Eastbourne Borough Council has been busy improving and updating its equipment in council facilities, such as the customer centre, the crematorium, Devonshire Park Theatre and complex and the tourist centre. Other businesses such as banks, supermarkets and retail outlets are also updating and newly installing hearing link equipment. Sadly, the hospitality group have been slow to take advantage of extra business that will come their way if they install or update equipment for people with a hearing disability. A simple hearing link at reception may be all that is required.”

The Let’s Loop Eastbourne campaign is being spearheaded by the Eastbourne-based charity, Hearing Link. Cllr Coles invited the EHA to contact Hearing Link to find out how easy it would be to get the job done.

“Let’s show that Eastbourne can welcome hearing impaired people, both national and international to the best looped town in Britain,” she added.

The EHA’s negative stance also drew criticism from America is the shape of the well-respected campaigning group, Hearing Access Program. Janice Schacter Lintz, founder and chair of the charity, which is based at Syracruse University, believes there should be the power to punish businesses which do not have working hearing loops.

She said, “To say the loops do not work when they are not maintained is just silly. That is the same as saying electricity does not work but you fail to mention that you didn’t pay the bill. Hearing loops work, but in the US they must meet American National Standards Institute levels and be maintained. The issue with many establishments is that they purchase portable systems and unplug them or fail to maintain them.

“Businesses must be required to maintain them or be fined. There needs to be an enforcement mechanism with inspectors, just like health inspectors for the food industry.”

Eastbourne MP, Stephen Lloyd, who wears a hearing aid and has been championing the hearing loop cause, is also trying to press the hotels into action.

He said, “In the modern day, if any hotel hosts conventions or conferences they really should provide induction loops.

“They make a real difference for hearing aid wearers and I would strongly recommend, from a business perspective if nothing else, that any Eastbourne hotel which has a conference room installs a loop.”

The Liberal Democrat MP added, “I am quite sure the induction loop provided by the Eastbourne Centre in their conference room helps boost their bookings.”

Next week: the Herald conducts its own audit of Eastbourne’s hotels – how good are their hearing loops?